Defending Japan

Offshore in a Dangerous Neighbourhood

Posts Tagged ‘Diplomacy

Weekend Update: Jan 23 2001

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#1: Obama Hears a Hu

Presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao at a joint press conference in Washington on January 19.
Presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao at a joint press conference
in Washington on January 19.
(Source: Reuters)
 
 

Chinese President Hu Jintao was in the US this week for what was expected to be his ‘legacy’ visit. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem that any concrete political developments came out of the talks besides pledges for closer cooperation. As The Daily Beast summed up concisely, ‘Obama didn’t get the concessions he wanted from China’s Hu. But then, he didn’t have the cards he needed.’

For some, however, it was good enough:

The Obama administration accomplished exactly what it set out to do: stake out its positions on a wide range of issues in the U.S.-China relationship, appear strong on concerns such as human rights, bring a little forward momentum to the relationship, and get a few deliverables (on the trade and investment front) in the process.

If anything, Hu seemed to go into the talks hoping to settle US fears over China’s recent antagonism:

It is only normal, in any relationship, to have disagreement and friction, Hu said. But he added that a strategic and long-term perspective will ensure relations will not be affected or held back by any individual incident at any particular time.

Despite this blogger’s expectations to the contrary, Hu did not offer any progress on bilateral military talks. It seems ever more likely that that option is not Hu’s to offer.

One of the more important discussions between Hu and Obama manifested into a joint statement on North Korea. In the statement, there was still some support for the Six-Party Talks (in whatever form they can finally settle on – it has been suggested that the inclusion of the talks in the statement was a compromise by Washington), as well as the specific mention of ‘the DPRK’s claimed uranium enrichment program,’ which could be read as China giving some ground on North Korea’s nuclear developmentalthough China denies such a change. Whether any of what was said will amount to anything depends on inter-Korean talks, as well as North Korea more specifically.

The joint press conference with both leaders was plagued by interpretation issues which should cause the White House some embarrassmentor not, but Obama handled himself well, perhaps noticeably better than his Chinese counterpart. [Transcript here via CFR]

 

#2: Kan: “Japan-U.S. alliance is the foundation of Japan’s foreign policy”

Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa arrives at Kadena AFB, Okinawa on January 20
Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa arrives
at Kadena AFB, Okinawa on January 20
(Source: USAF)
 
 

At a speech for the Friendship Exchange Council, Prime Minister Kan reaffirmed the necessity of the US bases in Okinawa, and promised “to strengthen efforts through various opportunities to seek the understanding and cooperation of those living outside Okinawa regarding the burden of hosting U.S. bases.”

The speech came as Japan and US signed a new five-year Special Measures Agreement on ‘host nation support,’ often called the sympathy budget (omoiyari yosan). Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara wants to put a stop to this nickname:

“Host nation support is often referred to as ‘sympathy budget,’ but we will no longer use this term since host nation support is a strategic contribution by Japan,” he said. “I’d like to declare that it is something that is agreed based on mutual strategic grounds.”

Regardless of those mutual grounds, “Japan wanted to pay less because of its financial straits and the U.S. was hoping it would pay more in light of elevated tensions on the Korean Peninsula and China’s rising might.” It looks like Japan won out, but also allowed the US to insert a clause whereby Japan might “partially or completely compensate the United States for the cost of shifting U.S. military drills to other venues.” A hedge against developments in Okinawa?

Appropriately timed, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa announced that Kadena AFB’s F-15 three-week training sessions would take place in Guam from April.

The Japan Times reported that:

Japan will cover the cost of relocating the F-15 drills under a bilateral pact to partially move them from U.S. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, so about 20 F-15s can take part in each drill on Guam, with each lasting up to 20 days. Support aircraft, including aerial tankers, will also have to take part in the drills. The U.S. military can conduct the drills alone or jointly with the Self-Defense Forces.

Stars and Stripes added:

Kitazawa also told [Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima] that both governments reached an agreement to close the 149-acre Marine Corps Gimbaru Training Area, located near Camp Hansen. Closure of the Marine training facility was first agreed to in 1996 by the Special Action Committee on Okinawa on the condition that the helicopter landing zone would be relocated to the nearby Kin Blue Beach Training Area and other Gimbaru facilities moved to Camp Hansen.

The announcements came as Kitazawa visited Okinawa (and Kadena AFB) – new Chief Cabinet Secretary and Minister for Okinawan Affairs Yukio Edano made a visit yesterday, and Maehara will follow before the end of the month. It shows a determined push by Kan to look strong on the problem of Okinawa, and it shows once more how Kan and his men have entered 2011 with fists swinging. His position is helped by an apparent softening on the issue following SecDef Robert Gates’ trip to East Asia last week:

“They’re looking for a compromise, to give Kan something that he can show to the public,” explains John Swenson-Wright, associate fellow of the Asia Programme at Chatham House. “It makes sense for Washington to offer practical concessions, but I’d be very surprised if the relocation of Futenma [within Okinawa] didn’t go through as originally agreed.”

Regardless of whether or not this is the result of America having thrown Japan a bone, Kan could certainly do with the support.

 

#3: South Korea and North Korea agree to high-level military talks

South Korean and North Korean guards at Panmunjom
South Korean and North Korean guards at Panmunjom
(Source: Debate It Out)
 
 

North Korea’s offer of talks has finally gained it some ground as South Korea agree to high-level military talks “only if the agenda included the two events that have soured relations – the sinking of a southern warship in March, and the shelling of a southern island.”

North Korea latest proposal for talks came on Thursday following the US-China Joint Statement on North Korea in Washington. The question remains whether North Korea will be happy to talk about those events and whether the answers it gives will be sufficient for the South.

With a cautiously optimistic wind in its sales, South Korea is also looking at having preliminary talks on denuclearisation:

“Our position is that separate high-level talks are essential to check sincerity about denuclearization and we will propose” such talks, Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said at a New Year’s reception for foreign diplomats stationed in Seoul.

[…]

“If North Korea demonstrates sincerity through specific action and then six-party talks resume, our government will seek a comprehensive resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue” through its “grand bargain” idea of a one-time major deal of swapping denuclearization and concessions, he said.

“North Korea should decide on its own whether it will choose a dead-ended road of confrontation and enmity or a road of peace and prosperity,” he said

An editorial in the Chosun Ilbo guesses at the reason for North Korea’s willingness to come to the table:

Until now the North has told its starving people that normalized relations with the U.S. would solve the food shortage and economic problems. But the only country in the world with the ability and willingness to help North Korea is the South. This reality seems finally to have hit the North when Seoul halted all trade and exchanges following the sinking of the Cheonan. The only way for the North to reach out to Washington is through Seoul, and only through Washington can the doors to the wider world open.

One writer, Nuno Santiago de Magalhaes, was willing to connect the Yeonpyeong Island strike to the talks as part of a connected strategy to get Seoul to the table. It certainly describes North Korea’s past behaviour quite well, but it’s hard to say whether the Yeonpyeong attack was so well devised.

North Korea has to play its cards right as South Korea is unwilling to taken for a ride. That might be asking too much of the North.

 

The Small Print

Taiwan’s disappointing missile test = US arms opportunity?

Abductee Yaeko Taguchi spotted in North Korea last year?

Parents of abductee Keiko Arimoto fail to secure MOFA official interview tape in damages trail

Written by James

2011/01/23 at 17:56

Maehara Gets It

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Locations of the 17 abduction incidents
Locations of the 17 abduction incidents (source: Government’s Rachi Mondai site)
 

After years of being bogged down by the abduction issue in the Six-Party Talks, Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara seems to understand that it can’t continue.

Whereas top Japanese and North Korean diplomats could sit face-to-face with each other to discuss the abductions at the six-party nuclear talks, the multilateral dialogue is for discussing Pyongyang’s nuclear program, he said.

“Basically, the abduction and missile issues should be resolved by Japan through direct negotiations with North Korea regardless of the six-party talks,” Maehara said.

If the Japanese government follows through on Maehara’s words, it will have been a long time coming. I first blogged about this problem 3 years ago, and by then it had already gone on too long. If Japan cannot keep the abduction issue (at the least) in bi-lateral talks, then it will devalue its role in multilateral forums.

Let’s just hope that Maehara can make good on that statement.

 

For more information on the abduction issue, check out some of my old posts on the topic at (now-defunct) Abduction Politics:

Mysterious Circumstances: Part 1 [Jan 31, 2007]
Mysterious Circumstances: Part 2 [Feb 3, 2007]
Abduction Issue Bonanza! [Oct 9, 2007]
The Abduction Issue and Japanese Long-Term Strategic Trajectory [Jan 21, 2008]
Logos vs Pathos: Emotion and Reason in Japan’s Abduction Issue [Feb 26, 2008]
Hardly a Coincidence… [May 20, 2008]

Written by James

2011/01/17 at 20:00